Damwon, T1 among 10 LCK teams accepted into 2021 LoL franchise league - Dexerto
League of Legends

Damwon, T1 among 10 LCK teams accepted into 2021 LoL franchise league

Published: 2/Nov/2020 2:13 Updated: 2/Nov/2020 9:54

by Isaac McIntyre

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Newly-crowned League of Legends world champs Damwon Gaming and Faker’s T1 headline the 10 organizations accepted into South Korea’s franchised LCK competition starting in 2021, Riot Games confirmed on Sunday evening.

GenG, who took on the two-time Worlds champions Samsung Galaxy in late 2017, and former LCK championship organizations like KT Rolster and DRX ⁠— known as ‘Kingzone DragonX’ until ⁠early 2020 — also made the 10 team franchise cutoff.

LCK stalwarts like Afreeca Freecs and Sandbox Gaming were both also included, as were Hanwha Life Esports. The league’s newest faces, Team Dynamics, also made the cut.

In fact, only one new team will be joining the LCK ranks heading into 2021.

HyFresh Blade, backed by United States technology company Brion, are set to replace new promoted challenger team SeolHaeOne Prince in the 10-team stable. SP finished with a poor 1–17 record in Summer, winning just six of 39 total games.

The nine returning LCK teams will pay 10 billion won ($8.8 million) to join the franchised league. hyFresh Blade are expected to pay 12 billion won over five years for their LCK spot.

Confirmed LCK teams for 2021 franchise league

  • Damwon Gaming
  • DRX
  • GenG
  • Afreeca Freecs
  • T1
  • KT Rolster
  • Sandbox Gaming
  • Team Dynamics
  • Hanwha Life Esports
  • HyFresh Blade
The LCK is finally following the LPL, LCS, and LEC into franchising in 2021.
Riot Korea
The LCK is finally following the LPL, LCS, and LEC into LoL franchising in 2021.

Riot Korea’s move to franchising in 2021 marks the last of League of Legends’ international ‘big four’ switching to a partnership system. The LPL was the first league to enter a franchise model, and the LCK (2018) and LEC (2019) swapped soon after.

The new LCK franchise switch will also see a minimum salary implemented for all teams. As Dexerto understands, all South Korean organizations will be required to pay all LoL players at least 60 million Korean won ($53,000) per calendar year.

The LCK has long been regarded as the premier League of Legends competition. Between 2013 and 2017 the region won five consecutive World titles, including three for SKT T1.

China snapped that winning streak on the international stage in 2018, with Invictus Gaming and FunPlus Phoenix each lifting the Summoner’s Cup once.

The World Championship in Shanghai this year saw Korea return to their historical throne, however. Damwon Gaming edged LPL contenders Suning 3-1 in the grand final at Pudong Stadium to clinch the LCK’s sixth title in just eight years.

The LCK is back on top internationally after two years of Chinese victories.
Riot Games
The LCK is back on top internationally after two years of Chinese victories.

Riot Games also suggested they would actively consider an increase to the league’s team count if the market grows. The first expansion would be to 12 teams.

The LCK bidding run saw plenty of organizations throw their hat into the ring, including shock bids from North American outfits like FaZe Clan and NRG Esports. These early bids were all knocked back, however, early in the selection process.

The newly-franchised LCK competition is expected to begin in early February. The current world champions Damwon Gaming also enter the South Korean league as defending champions. They won their first domestic title in September.

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Adam Fitch: Sorry Dr Disrespect, mobile esports are thriving

Published: 27/Nov/2020 17:00

by Adam Fitch

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Earlier in November 2020, streamer Dr Disrespect spoke down towards mobile gamers on Twitter by questioning how it could be a “serious thing” — however, he’s just failing to understand how popular competition on mobile already is.

While mobile gamers and industry figures alike came to the defense of mobile gaming when the Two-Time took aim at the platform, there’s still a serious misconception around mobile esports and the success it’s already achieved.

Firstly, it’s worthwhile addressing the “serious” comment from Doc. While mobile devices perhaps don’t allow for precision that PCs do, there’s still a major skill gap between average and professional players and that lends itself perfectly to competition. The most common and widely-accepted definition of esports is a “video game played competitively for spectators,” mobile tournaments meet such a criteria on a daily basis and it’s already serious to hundreds of thousands of viewers on a weekly basis.

This skepticism from one of the faces of gaming is emblematic of a larger problem of platform elitism that plagues gaming on all levels. Ever since the popularization of esports there has been debate between console and PC gaming, centering around not only which type of players are better but whether console esports have unfair advantages due to features such as aim assist.

Ezreal in League of Legends Wild Rift
Riot Games
The most popular esports title, League of Legends, arrived on mobile in October 2020.

Tribalism is also a factor in this spritely, never-ending discussion, with players grouping together based on their platform of choice and nonsensically taking aim at those who have other preferences.

The only time in which such a debate would be productive is if cross-platform play is embraced in serious competition, which seems to be a long way away from ever becoming a reality. Fortnite developers Epic Games received plenty of criticism when implementing this feature in casual play, never mind in their esports activities, so it’s probably safe to assume no companies are rushing to make this a reality for the time being.

Infrastructure matters

Something that all good games need to be viable on a competitive level is infrastructure. Creating an appropriate structure for esports initiatives is important, whether it’s by a game’s developer or a third-party tournament organizer.

A great example of this in the realm of mobile esports is Clash Royale, one of the more popular titles from Finnish developers Supercell. The real-time strategy game has its own official team-based league from the company themselves, with top-tier gameplay spanning nine weeks and culminating in a year-ending world championship. This level of support and structure actually goes beyond what some PC and console games receive.

On the third-party organizer front, especially in the West, you only have to look as far as ESL to see how seriously mobile esports is being taken. As well as hosting regular online events for the likes of Call of Duty: Mobile, Clash of Clans, Brawls Stars, and Clash Royale, they have the ESL Mobile Open for elite players.

Clash Royale League World Finals
Supercell
The Clash Royale League World Finals are always a spectacle, rivaling events in almost any other game.

Recently incorporating the Middle East and North Africa into the European arm of the competition, it’s said that ESL hosted over 500,000 players in the inaugural season alone. The second season involves PUBG Mobile, Auto Chess, Asphalt 9: Legends, and Clash of Clans, and will be expecting even more success with the widening of the player base.

In North America, the Mobile Open from ESL is already in its sixth season and has a headline sponsorship from the world’s largest telecommunications company, AT&T. There are other examples of infrastructure being fleshed out for mobile titles, but you get the gist.

A sight for sore eyes

One major factor of how we define success in esports is viewership. With a healthy amount of eyeballs on a product comes sponsorship opportunities, bragging rights, and further validation that fans are interested in watching the elite face off against each other.

With that in mind, it’s never been clearer that mobile esports isn’t just a major part of the future of the industry — it has already arrived. According to analytics agency Esports Charts, mobile events made up three of the five most popular tournaments in October 2020. This happened alongside the League of Legends World Championship taking place, which is not only one of the most anticipated occasions in the esports calendar but as it turned out to be one of the only LAN events we’d seen in six months.

Garena Free Fire
Garena
Free Fire hit a record of 100 million peak daily users earlier in 2020.

Asia and Latin America are where mobile esports are truly thriving at the moment, rivaling the popularity of any other title you decide to compare them with. This is proven from last month’s peak viewership statistics, where MOBA title Mobile Legends: Bang Bang and battle royale game Garena Free Fire occupied three of the top five placements.

Ryan ‘Fwiz’ Wyatt, the head of gaming at YouTube, posted a thread on Twitter on November 26 backed up the sheer popularity of Free Fire on the platform. In 2019, it was YouTube’s fourth most-viewed game and it’s proving to have some longevity considering its monthly viewership peaked in October 2020.

While this level of success isn’t replicated across all regions just yet, that’s how esports typically work. Call of Duty and Counter-Strike are mainly popular among those in North America and Europe, for example, which is reflected in the demographics of both the top-level players and the viewership alike. The same applies to mobile but it’s not an excuse for ignorance.

The future?

Mobile devices are generally more accessible than a high-end computer or new-generation gaming console so there’s a much higher ceiling on participation in mobile esports by default. Whether adoption from mobile users does indeed propel it into becoming the de facto competitive option is yet to be seen, but such potential can’t be ignored.

With viewership rivaling (and even oftentimes besting) that from console and PC esports alike, it’s sheer ignorance to state that mobile gaming isn’t already a major player in the industry. If you fail to see that from the investment that’s being funneled into mobile titles, or the number of people who already enjoy playing and spectating, then perhaps you’d like to argue that grass isn’t green too.